Singaporeans love to travel and it does help that we do have the best passport in the world with the highest visa-free score. But travelling and living/working overseas are two completely different stories, so what is it like to be a Singaporean overseas? We spoke with a few wt+ friends who’re based in a country far far away from this sunny island and this month we’ve got Lihao who has been in São Paulo, Brazil for the past 4 years.
It’s been 7 long years working and living abroad, 4 of these years in Brazil and counting. Yes, my life so far in this side of the world has been infused with lots of samba, caipirinhas and lovely beaches (read ladies in barely there bikinis).
Plus I live in the warmth of the temperate climate that doesn’t make your sweat glands go gaga, and a winter that resembles a turbo charged aircon in your neighbourhood cinema – no snow here but I am really fine with that!
And that isn't just getting on a plane, see and complete what you need to, and then go back home. That is a mentality of a tourist... You have to assimilate in a new culture, language and environment. Learn and unlearn.Lihao
Rewind the above scenario 4 years ago, the decision I took to leave wasn’t merely just a 30-hour plane ride. There were considerations of course; personal commitments, family and friends, the divorce of familiarity a young man in his mid-20s had then. Living in one of the most modern and safest cities in the world, thinking in retrospect, was a double edged sword. You will really need to put in some effort to get out of your comfort bubble and put yourself in the real world. And that isn’t just getting on a plane, see and complete what you need to, and then go back home. That is a mentality of a tourist. I had traveled a fair bit during my time in university and that probably framed a stark contrast as opposed to living in a foreign country. You have to assimilate in a new culture, language and environment. Learn and unlearn. In the end I guess the decision came from the curious and adventurous persona in me. I wanted to
try a new surrounding and get uncomfortable. Personally, I did it to satisfy my dream to travel and to see what the world had to offer.
Brazil is a love-hate relationship for all my Singaporean friends. Forget about efficiency and governance. Expect frustration and timeline that doesn’t ends. However for me this is where all the brilliance begin. You see, Brazilians have evolved around this and this, in my opinion, gave them a strong and resolute character. They have learned to engage and trust the common people, as opposed to politicians and people in power. They respect each individual as a human being and are civil minded. Do you greet strangers in the lift of your office building? We do. Everyday. Brazil has taught me about being a human being again.
Do you greet strangers in the lift of your office building? We do. Everyday. Brazil has taught me about being a human being again.Lihao
No doubts there are times when I miss family and friends. Doesn’t really help where the community of Singaporeans here is minimal. But what we don’t have in numbers, we make up for it in… food. We occasionally have that curry and chicken rice party that my neighbours would be envious for.
Not so bad when your network also includes a bunch of Malaysians that throws in that dish of nasi lemak and sambal that makes that causeway rivalry seems so incoherent suddenly. We are closely knit and we are the real ambassadors of our country. We also travel a lot together, organising road trips during a long weekend breaks. They are the bedrock of my life here and they are family.
We occasionally have that curry and chicken rice party that my neighbours would be envious for.Lihao
I am fortunate. I mean I got to see World Cup here live and experience this in the Mecca of football. During the Olympic Games Rio 2016, I got to witness Singapore winning her first Olympic gold medal.
And with this wealth of experience I shared with the Brazilian people, I hope one day I can reciprocate this back home. The world is getting smaller and just as there are so many foreigners in Singapore, there is no excuse to do our part to keep our minds open, embrace this exchange of ideas between cultures.
And with this wealth of experience I shared with the Brazilian people, I hope one day I can reciprocate this back home.Lihao